5 Tips for Optimizing Product Listing Ads

Since Google introduced Product Listing Ads (PLAs) as part of its Google Shopping initiative last year, Internet advertisers and online merchants have been working hard to find the best possible ways to optimize the performance of their PLAs.

These product-specific and information-rich advertisements are displayed when consumers conduct product-related searches and are visible in a sponsored section on the SERPs. So far, they can increase click-through rates by as much as 73 percent, conversion rates by 35 percent and provide a 46 percent higher return on ad spend for merchants.

However, in order to get numbers like those (or even better), it's important to clean up your product feeds (where Google pulls the information for each individual product from) and carefully set up your PLA campaigns.

Here are five things you can do to improve the overall performance of your Google PLAs:

Title Specs

What's in a name? Well, for busy consumers, it can be a lot, especially because titles will indicate the queries that you're likely to show up for. That's why you should be thoughtful when giving your products a title in your product feed. For starters, be sure that it is no longer than 70 characters; otherwise, Google will truncate parts of the title. In addition, be sure to put the most important (read: significant for keyword-based searches) information at the front of the title, since Google will only show the first couple of words in the SERPs.

Information and Descriptions

While both product titles and descriptions should include essential keywords for the searches that you want those specific products to appear on, they shouldn't be overstuffed with keywords. In other words, ensure that they include necessary information while also being readable and interesting for consumers. Also, don't worry where you place your keywords in the descriptions, since they don't actually show up in the PLAs; they're really there so that Google can more easily separate similar products.

Price Products Accurately

Google will almost certainly penalize any PLAs that inaccurately list the price of the product in question. Keep in mind that if you have package pricing, you will have to include the lowest possible price that someone can add items into their cart for. For instance, if customers must buy a minimum of 20 products for $2 each, the price should be listed as $40, not $2.

Ad Groups

One way to gain greater control over the bidding, offer copy and targeting of each product is to create a separate ad group for each product category. When you do this, you can either use the product categories Google uses for Google Shopping, or customize your own parameters to categorize groups of products in the most relevant way possible. In addition, you should be careful when putting bids on a catch-all ad group, as Google will serve the PLA from the ad group with the highest bid, ignoring all of the others. That being said, you can also optimize your best-selling ad group and make it more visible by giving them higher bids.

Testing Ad Groups

When you set up your ad groups, you should create custom targets that will focus on the first targeting option and your individual product IDs. This allows you to see what queries each of your products are showing up for and provide more visibility into which of your products are converting well. The reports you glean from this testing will show you which of your feed's copy listings are most effective, and which products you can increase your bids on due to their higher conversion rates. You should also monitor the average position for you groups that usually perform well, and if you see that your average position changes when you haven't done anything, it's probably because other merchants (e.g. your competitors) are increasing their bids; you'll need to do the same in order to stay competitive.